Monthly Archives: July 2007

Soaps and soapstone

I have a soapstone carving of an elegant elder purchased from a roadside trader in Bulawayo. It cost me millions of Zimbabwean dollars. Selling crafts to tourists is one way of surviving the crisis where the growth in inflation has escalated. When I was there last year it was 1000%. Now its way beyond that. Problem is there are few tourists in this wonderful country.
In Kenya one of the soapstone artists and his community have made a breakthrough. They are producing carvings of the Simpsons’ characters in this material and it has changed their lives. The story is in today’s Independent (10/7/2007).
America it seems is forever adept at exporting its culture and values through the likes of Disney, Hollywood and now the Simpsons. Can the ever present Chinese hope to compete?

Peaceful demonstration marred by allegations of police brutality [HMP Holloway, 9 July 2007]

From Pauline B Campbell
Prison-death demonstration – Monday 9 July 2007
to protest against the death of Marie Cox, aged 34
who died on 30 June 2007 in the ‘care’ of HMP and YOI Holloway, London
– the 25th demonstration to be held outside women’s prisons in England since protests began in 2004
Alleged police brutality at demonstration An ugly incident took place outside HMP Holloway. Legal advice will be sought following allegations of police brutality. Pauline Campbell, and another woman protester (an OAP), were pulled, pushed, and dragged, by male police officers. At one point, protesters alleged Pauline Campbell was ‘thrown to the ground’ by a large policeman; protesters reckoned he was about 16 stone.
Prison van driver’s aggressive driving (Serco) Earlier in the afternoon, in a separate incident, a Serco prison van arrived at the jail, was signalled to halt, and the vehicle stopped. Protester Pauline Campbell was positioned immediately in front of the vehicle, but several times the driver started moving the vehicle slowly forward, until the van was about two inches away from making bodily contact. The manner of driving was potentially dangerous, and appeared to be designed to intimidate protesters.
* Around 25 protesters held a peaceful demonstration outside Holloway Prison, during the afternoon of Monday 9 July 2007, to protest against the tragic death of Marie Cox, 34, who died in the care of HMP & YOI Holloway on 30 June 2007.
* The four and a half hour demonstration was attended by protesters from Yorkshire, Cheshire, and London, including representatives from FRFI London (Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!); ‘No More Prison’; and the Crossroads Women’s Centre, London.
* Marie Cox is the sixth woman to die in prison in the first half of this year – double the figure for the whole of last year (three women prisoners died in 2006).
* Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP, Islington North, was sent details of the demonstration, but did not respond to the invitation to attend the protest.
* Local reporters and photographers attended the demonstration.
* At 5.10 pm, Serco prison van BX54 YNC, arrived at the prison entrance. Protesters blocked entry. The driver tried to intimidate protesters by driving his vehicle slowly forward towards Pauline Campbell, stopping about two inches short of making bodily contact. After a few minutes, he gave up, turned the vehicle round, and left the main prison entrance. He then entered the jail via another entrance and, as his vehicle reached the prison building, protesters repositioned and again blocked entry.
* At around 5.20 pm an all-male police contingent arrived: constables 649, 463, 533 and 332. Police action enabled the prison van to enter the building, but the manner in which this was achieved was completely unacceptable. No-one was arrested, and no-one was cautioned, but two policemen used brute force against two female protesters (both grieving mothers, and one an OAP) – Pauline Campbell, and pensioner Mrs Gwen Calvert. Mrs Calvert is the bereaved mother of Paul Calvert who died in the ‘care’ of HMP Pentonville in 2004.
* An official complaint will be lodged with the Metropolitan Police following this ugly incident. Protesters allege Pauline Campbell was ‘thrown to the ground’ by PC 649, readily identified by his size (around 16 stone) and bearing a large tattoo on one arm. Mrs Calvert then stepped forward to protest about his treatment of Pauline Campbell. PC 649 then grabbed Mrs Calvert by the arm, pulled her away, and bodily lifted her off the ground, and carried her to the pavement. He then pushed her roughly, which could easily have resulted in a fall. PC 463 then grabbed Pauline Campbell, and dragged her out of the path of the van. All this was captured on moving film and stills (time coded camera), and was witnessed by eight people (a number of protesters had left by this time). Mrs Calvert, from East London, complained to officers about police behaviour and ‘bully’ tactics.
* At 5.35 pm, shortly before leaving the jail, Pauline Campbell spoke to PCs 649 and 463 and informed them that protesters believed an assault had taken place against two female protesters (Gwen Calvert and Pauline Campbell), and that the matter would be reported.
* Before leaving, protesters left bouquets of flowers and a memorial placard outside the jail in memory of Marie Cox.

The celebrities have it

The U.S. election campaign for 2008 is characterised by videos and spoof videos. Sometimes it is difficult to spot the difference. I can’t be bothered to make links, it’s too tedious. To be quite honest the front runners for me, Obama and Clinton, I wouldn’t want either after watching this crap.
Meanwhile back home the local press is obsessed with the elected mayor issue. They brought Robocop to Birmingham, Ray Mallon from Middlebrough. Dick (Sir Richard) Knowles, former leader of Birmingham City Council was mightily unimpressed. However the Mail presses on with its campaign to get enough signatories for a referendum. Meanwhile we have a new appointee to oversee the Wst Midland region in the form of Liam Byrne, Labour MP for Hodge Hill. He’s planning to bang a few heads together to get the New Street Station rebuild. We can’t even get the proposed Metro system in place!
Well is that it? We are talking about a region which should be promoting itself as “heart of the nation”, a hub around which everything revolves. Considering the huge amounts consigned to London: St Pancras, the Olympics, Wembley along with the transport systems spawned in their wake, to ask for a little more than a station rebuild seems not too much to ask.
The problem if New Street is rebuilt, and it certainly needs it, but the tunnels that feed it are winding and constrict traffic flow, as do the two tracks between Coventry and Wolverhampton. These cater for the new fast Virgin service, local trains and freight traffic. If anything happens then the whole thing comes to a grinding halt. Rebuilding New Street might help for 10 to 15 years, but we need alternatives to flying to Europe across the U.K. not just from the South East.
Gordon Brown got round to visiting flooded trouble spots and announced help by offering relief funding. At the same time cuts are on the horizon for more cuts in flood defences, following those Gordon oversaw a few years back. With climate change predictions for seas rising and the unseasonal rainfall we have just experienced this seems strange to say the least. It’s Trident missiles what will save us according to this ( and any other foreseeable) government.
Brown’s performance in parliament looked on the face of it different to Blair. War, he said, could no longer be declared without parliament and our rights and responsibilities will be subject to debate before legislation. Well, er, not exactly, there are provisos like allowing the P.M. to act if he thinks the country is in exceptional danger. Didn’t Blair make just that case backed by the dodgy dossier? More spin. More of the same, but I didn’t really expect any difference. There may have been personal differences but Brown was up to his neck with New Labour and is continuing with more of the same adherence to privatisation of everything in sight. Cuts to key public services, including flood defence, continues apace. Anyway Mr Brown also seems to work on the basis of celebrity by bringing (or trying to) the great and the good, non elected for purpose, into his government

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Death at Holloway

Pauline Campbell sent me the following. It is about the death of the sixth woman to die in prison during 2007. Pauline also traces the history of Holloway in respect of the death of women prisoners. I think the news got hidden under that of the new leader, weather and attacks on British cities. Seems that the Times on Line just found space to devote a couple of lines, no other trace. No further comment.
Marie Cox, aged 34
died on 30 June 2007, while in the ‘care’ of Holloway Prison, London
Demonstration will take place on Monday 9 July 2007
at 1.00 pm, for the duration of the afternoon,
outside HMP & YOI Holloway, Parkhurst Road, London, N7 0NU
Banners will be displayed, and flowers laid in memory of Marie
Reporters/photographers are welcome to attend
Already six women have died in prison this year: Marie Cox is the sixth woman to die. (In 2006, three women prisoners died.)
The demonstration will be led by Pauline Campbell, mother of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, 18, who died in the so-called care of HMP & YOI Styal on 18 January 2003.
The demonstration on 9 July 2007 will be the 25th demonstration to be held outside women’s prisons in England since protests began in 2004.
To date, Pauline Campbell has been arrested 14 times, and is currently awaiting criminal trial at North Avon Magistrates’ Court following a demonstration outside HMP & YOI Eastwood Park on 24.01.07 to protest against the death of Caroline Powell, 26 (mother of five children), who was on remand, and therefore legally innocent, when she died.
Figures refer to apparently self-inflicted deaths, England and Wales.
(1) Times Online (News in Brief), dated 02.07.07 (“Prisoner hanged”) states Marie Cox was awaiting sentencing for trespassing with intent.
(2) Previous prison-death demonstrations at HMP Holloway:
(a) 26 April 2004, following the death of Julie Angela Hope, aged 35
(b) 27 May 2004, following the death of Heather Waite, aged 28 –
(c) 9 November 2005, following the death of Karen Ann Fletcher, aged 30
(3) HMP Holloway – “one woman remains in a coma after being cut down from a makeshift noose” (May 2004)
* Waite = correct spelling of surname (Home Office notification of death was incorrect)
(i) Despite the fact that “crime has fallen by 35% since 1997” (The Observer, 08.04.07), Labour has presided over a shameful increase in the number of women sent to prison. In 1997, when Labour took office, 2,629 women were locked up. There are now 4,390 women and girls in prison (as at 29.06.07). Yet there has been no equivalent increase in the number of women committing offences, or of women committing more serious crimes. The culprit is Labour’s get-tough sentencing policy.
(ii) The number of women in prison has increased far more rapidly than the number of men: over the past decade there has been a 126% increase in the number of women in prison, compared with a 46% rise in men in jail.” Source: The Guardian, 13.03.07: (Q & A: Women in prison).

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Afghanistan. More civilian deaths

Already there have been protests about the excessive and indiscriminate use of force resulting in the death of civilians. Men, women, children. Now there are said to be around 80 more casualties as a result of the U.S. bombing of a village in the British run Helmand province. This was prompted by an attack by the Taliban on a U.S. convoy.
It seems that any provocation will result in a violent response. Perhaps the enemy realise this since the oft-stated need to win the “battle of hearts and minds” vanishes like water in sand. I would think that British troops in the province are now going to face an even tougher time as a result.

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